The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
2016 – Cycle C
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11
Last week I concluded my homily by asking, what does it mean for you to be baptized into dying and rising with and in Christ. During this intervening week, what was your answer?
If the washing of Baptism is the foundational experience of the Christian; if Baptism is an ongoing-event that carries with it responsibilities; if Baptism makes us labourers for the harvest of the world; what does that mean for you as a lay woman and lay man and what does that mean for me as an ordained priest?
Recall, that the Second Vatican Council teaches that there is a mutual relationship of support and dependence between laity and clergy. Clergy and laity complement each other in the ministry of the Gospel [See Lumen gentium]. In different ways, though in ways that are just as important, laity and clergy, share equally the responsibility for the Church, its outreach and the proclamation of the Gospel.
Who are we, the laity and clergy of the Church?
We are young and energetic – filled with questions to challenge authority. We are seniors graced with the experience and wisdom of years who sometimes struggle physically due to our age. Some of us are in the prime of our lives midway through the journey, confident and strong. We are single, some by choice others by happenstance. We are married while others live as vowed brothers, sisters, monks and nuns in religious communities and as monastics. Clergy are among us, as deacons who are married, have children or are widowed; as well as priests and bishops who are celibate for the sake of the kingdom. And there are people who again find themselves as a single person through divorce or death.
We are all different. We are all incomplete. We are all afraid.
And those realities of difference, incompleteness and fear reflect the genius and the mystery of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit compels us to need each other. The gift of Christ’s eternal priesthood that has been shared with me is incomplete without you. I therefore come before you today because I need you.
Paul writes to us, “There are different gifts; different forms of service, different workings…to one person is given wisdom, to another person knowledge, to this person faith, to that person is given gifts of healing, to another person mighty deeds…” and the list goes on [1 Corinthians 12:4-11]. Paul can only begin to catalogue the gifts of the Spirit because the movements of the Holy Spirit are not exhaustive. Notice not only the variety of gifts but that each different gift is given to a distinct person. Variety and diversity typify the movements and graciousness of the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit, uniformity I gather, is uninteresting, dull and monotonous and can lead a person into the sin of pride.
So what am I lacking? In what do I need you to compliment my ministry as ordained priest? (You may want to reverse those questions for yourselves sometime.) Remember, there are close to 700 lay women and men in this parish and 1 ordained priest. I note the numbers and ratio not to frighten or worry anyone but so as to make us all aware that we have moved out of what I consider a 16oo year period in which the clergy dominated the life of the Catholic Church and now have been moving into a period of the laity. A period in which you are being invited to take your rightful baptismal place alongside the clergy for the sake of Christ.
In what do I need you to compliment my ministry as ordained priest?
First, I need you to be my, the staff’s and the parish’s, eyes and ears.
- Who among us within our parish is sick, infirm and homebound; known and unknown?
- Are you bringing Holy Communion to someone or making regular visits or phone calls? Who are these sisters and brothers?
- Who is not being visited?
- Are you willing to be that bridge between parishioners who cannot gather with us and the rest of the larger parish community?
With the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis we are reminded of the Corporal Work of Mercy to bury the dead. I am looking for 20-30 parishioners to regularly attend funerals to be present to families, to pray with them, sing the hymns of the liturgy and answer the prayers. The reality is two-fold: many people have little family left having seen relatives and friends die before them. There is often no one to gather and pray for some of our dead.
Second, more and more families are not practicing and therefore do not respond throughout the Funeral Mass. What would it say to such a family – on the fringes of the church’s life or having been alienated or just drifting and searching – to see a sizeable representation of parishioners praying with them and for their dead? Many retired people have the gift of time; a gift of the Spirit Paul may not have thought to put on his list. I am asking for this sizeable number realizing not everyone will be able to be present at every funeral.
We are in need of more sacristans to open up and prepare the church for welcoming people and preparing for the liturgy. This is particularly true of the Sunday Mass since I am now traveling between communities. More sacristans lighten the scheduling for everyone. You will need to arrive early and often be the last one to leave. Written instructions and training will be provided.
The final two areas are more informative.
I will be choosing and preparing a number of parishioners to lead the prayer at wakes and burials. This is in the event I am unable to be present due to distance or being away from the parish. Also in the case of another priest covering the parish, for example, when I am on retreat, we, the people of our parish should be able to assist by leading such prayer. The rubrics of the Funeral Mass allow for anyone, lay or cleric, to preside over the Wake and/or Committal and Burial Rites so that no Christian would ever be buried without the public and communal prayer of the Church. I realize the presence of the parish priest is important to Catholics but we need to expand that sense of presence to all baptized Christians of our community.
And finally, you have read in the bulletin that I want to expand on the variety of people who present the gifts of bread of wine for sacrifice and your monetary donations, which represent your hard work and generosity for the support the temporal and charitable works of the parish. Over time this important act and responsibility of all parishioners was subsumed only by those who had requested a paid intention. This practice gave the impression that people had purchased the Mass and therefore had a right to present the gifts. Neither of these impression was ever true. More important this practice failed to take into account the responsibility of all of us to offer the sacrifice to God. Neglected were guests and parishioners such as high school and college students among us, families, single individuals and simply the vast majority of parishioners who never request an intention. This practice of linking a paid intention with the presentation of the gifts has come to an end. Sacristans each week will be requesting from all of you over time to share in this responsibility and my hope, when asked, is that you will respond eagerly and generously.
Remember the harvest is abundant and the labourers are also! Together, clergy and laity, priest and people, we are the labourers for Christ Jesus. [See Luke 10:2; Matthew 9:37]
I ask that you pray on this during this week. What gifts has the Holy Spirit given you for the sake of the Church and the Gospel. Next week there will be an insert for you to take home and return with information on the sick and homebound of our community, openness on your part to be a parish visitor and/or eucharistic minister, to participate at funerals, and be sacristans.
What does it mean for you to be baptized into dying and rising with and in Christ?